Growing locally in the Kootenays

 

Colin Payne. Nelson Daily News. Nelson, B.C.: Jul 28, 2008. pg. 3

 

(Copyright 2008 Nelson Daily News)

 

Community food matters.

 

That's the message the Nelson-based local food advocacy group with the same name passed on to Nelson city council at the Committee of the Whole meeting earlier this month.

 

Community Food Matters, a local group started in 2006, is an organization with the aim of creating a thriving local food system in Nelson, and ensuring everyone, regardless of income, has access to safe, nutritious, and healthy food that's grown using environmentally and socially responsible practices.

 

Speaking on behalf of the group to city council, John Steinman, host of Kootenay Co-op Radio's nationally syndicated radio show, Deconstructing Dinner, told councillors why the local food movement here in Nelson should be a priority for municipal government.

 

Due to the national media exposure, Nelson's blossoming local food movement has garnered attention across the country, Steinman told council.

 

To date he has been contacted by many groups, including the Nova Scotia and Manitoba provincial governments to come and give presentations on developing local food economies.

 

"It's a mixture of wanting to learn what Nelson is doing, and also just to learn more about the idea of food localization -- and how food localization has a real, direct impact on local economies," Steinman explained.

 

Steinman noted that many of the projects being undertaken by Nelson and area residents are breaking new ground in the way Canadians get food on their plates.

The Grain Community Supported Agriculture Project is one example of the local food movement.

 

Under the project, locals purchased shares in grain farming operations in Creston. After the harvest, the grains are divided up equally amongst the shareholders.

 

Steinman said it's the only operation of its kind he knows of in Canada, and one of only a handful on the continent.

 

"It's creating a revolutionary model for how to grow grain locally. But also assuring the farmers growing the grain they will receive adequate revenues for what they're doing, and compensation for their work," he explained.

 

And though it's been around for more than 30 years, the Kootenay Co-op Country Store is also part of the new local food revolution.

 

"That, too is a really different approach in how to assure local control of the food supply -- for the community to have a say in what's on the shelves of their grocery store," Steinman said.

 

"As opposed to relying on what's on the shelves of a grocery store, where they head office may be in Calgary, Alberta or it may be in Vancouver, British Columbia. . . where a lot of these head offices are for major chain grocers. They have far less connection to what's happening in the community."

 

Finally he points to something new on the horizon for local food production, Kootenay Mountain Grown produce.

 

The Kootenay Local Agriculture Society has proposed creating its own label for the organic produce grown in the area, instead of jumping through the hoops of getting a time-consuming and costly official organic certification -- which has come to mean little more than a marketing label in many cases these days.

"What they're proposing is a farmer to farmer certification, where farmers will certify each other and try to maintain the same organic standards," Steinman said. "But instead of labeling it as 'organic,' they'll label it as 'Kootenay Mountain Grown.'

 

"That, in my opinion is another revolutionary step toward really marketing local, as opposed to marketing organic."

 

Steinman said the key to making this local food movement that's begun to thrive in Nelson spread out across the land is to inspire people to get involved with their food.

 

People have gradually become disenfranchised from the food they eat, and Steinman feels they're starting to realize it.

 

"One of the easy solutions. . . is to start to buy local," he said. "But I see it to be much more important that people also get involved in these projects, not with just how they purchase their food. . . People do need to get more involved in the process of farming."

 

Community Food Matters has undertaken several projects over the past couple years to promote these ideals, including a food forum in 2006, the Future of Food in the Kootenays Conference and the Eat Local Challenge in 2007, as well as regular film screenings and potlucks.

 

Steinman said the goal of introducing the organization to council was to make them aware of the importance of their work and garner future support for projects.

 

"All around the table the response was overwhelmingly positive," Steinman noted. "They were really excited about what we're doing."

 

Credit: Nelson Daily News